Abela, Eduardo (1889–1965) By Hartman, Joseph
Cuban artist and cartoonist Eduardo Abela (born 1889 in San Antonio de los Baños; died 1965 in Havana) is considered an early progenitor of the Cuban Vanguardia, a 20th-century avant-garde art movement that incorporated European modernist techniques, such as Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism, into synthetic images of Cuba’s multifaceted culture. Like many of his colleagues, Abela explored Cuban themes in his art while living abroad in Spain and Paris in the 1920s. During his European residency, Abela created nostalgic and somewhat stereotypical images of Cuba’s rural landscape, peasantry, and Afro-Cuban populations. Abela’s Afro-Cuban themed works, in particular, came at the height of “negro fashion” in France. His paintings from this period are most often associated with a Eurocentric view of primitivism: a vision of things African as earthy, sensual, and exotic. After his return to Cuba, Abela served as a cartoonist for the Cuban newspaper El Diario del Marina from 1930 until 1934. During this period in his career, Abela created acerbic editorial cartoons as a protest against the notorious President-cum-Dictator Gerardo Machado. Abela later founded a short-lived art studio called the Free Studio of Painting and Sculpture in 1937. He served as Cuba’s cultural attaché to Mexico from 1941 to 1946 and to Guatemala from 1947 to 1952. He continued to paint until his death in 1965.